PSG vs Liverpool has the potential to be a classic, a feast of attacking football which people will look back upon for years to come. But there’s a potential fly in the ointment; the Reds’ two away performances in the 2018/19 Champions League suggest they don’t stand a chance in Paris.
What’s weird about their losses at Napoli and Crvena Zvezda is that they are so out of character with Liverpool’s results this season. Granted, their performance level within matches they’ve won has left a little to be desired at times. However, as the following chart of their expected goal stats from the season so far will demonstrate, by this measure at least they’ve largely got the results they deserved.
Notice how the defeat in Belgrade stands out like a sore thumb. As per the dashed lines on the chart, it was an above average performance at both ends of the pitch. In truth, all it really highlights is the limitations of expected goals; once the home side had scored twice from a couple of low probability efforts, they had little interest in attacking and could focus on keeping Liverpool at bay.
So why the Red malaise on the road in Europe this season? While Liverpool supporters were pleased to see their team scheduled to play at home following all six of their Champions League group games, this obviously means they play away before them.
Did having to play at Chelsea and Arsenal directly prior to the trips to Napoli and Crvena Zvezda leave Liverpool without enough fuel in the tank? It’s an easy pattern to identify and put faith in, albeit correlation is not causation. Even so, there could be something in it.
This weekend the Reds were at Watford. They didn’t make easy work of it in the first half, though their class told in the end. Kopites will be delighted to see that their first choice front three all made important contributions. Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino both scored, with Sadio Mané picking up his first assist of 2018/19 by setting up the Egyptian’s opening goal.
For PSG, their domestic campaign continued without trouble, with a 1-0 win over Toulouse. If you happen to think Manchester City are peerless in England, then Ligue 1 is becoming nothing more than a joke. PSG have won 14 out of 14, scoring 46 goals and conceding just seven. Second placed Lyon are currently on track to get 73 points this season; the champions are well over half way there already.
All eyes will focus on whether Neymar and Kylian Mbappé are fit to play. Both were injured during the international break, but manager Thomas Tuchel has confirmed they will return to training on Monday. You don’t need Twelve’s algorithm to tell you how important they are, but they have been the best two performers from either side in the Champions League this season.
Despite the main attacking trios being most likely to draw the eye in PSG vs Liverpool, perhaps the most interesting clash will be down the French side’s right flank.
Thomas Meunier has been the home side’s fourth best performer in the 2018/19 Champions League, in the eyes of Twelve at least. The Belgian has patrolled his flank well from a defensive standpoint, while also making some important attacking contributions.
For Liverpool, Andy Robertson has been their third best attacking performer in Europe this season. In all competitions, he is the Reds’ top creator of clear-cut chances, and top assist provider too. Correlation is more likely to be causation here, obviously.
Neil Atkinson of The Anfield Wrap described Robertson as running the game from left-back after the win at Watford. It’s a tall order to do that at the Parc des Princes, but the Scotland captain’s battle with Meunier could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this match. Liverpool have yet to display their true selves away from home in Europe this season. This would be an excellent time to do so for the first time.